Shed, a chubby brown squirrel who isn’t a bit shy, sits on the deck railing nibbling on bird seeds. He’s relaxed and happy in this environment and doesn’t seem to want to be anywhere else.
Much like the owner and builder of this particular deck, Shed thinks that living here in La Manche, on a wooded, pond-side lot with a cascading stream flowing by is like hitting the jackpot.
Dave Penney says he found the squirrel’s nest in his shed, hence the name. Shed and his siblings are welcome at the cabin. They make for quiet company.
After three years of searching for the property to build his cabin all across the province, Penney saw the for sale sign on this one, hidden by an alder bush. It exceeded his requirements, which were to build by water, whether it be salt water, a river or a pond. This one had two out of three. He left shortly after this discovery for a three-month job in New Brunswick, working as a welder. When he came back and the property was still for sale, he snatched it up right away. “I was like a kid,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it was still here. I really lucked out.” He built a driveway into the cabin and started excavating, and not one week later someone offered him twice the price he paid for the property. But by then, Penney had already seen the potential and was beginning to create his getaway cabin. He refused to sell.
Penney was inspired by Log Homes magazine to build his own log cabin from scratch. He had built houses and hotels in Ontario and was ready to create something to call his own. “I love logs. I love the forest,” he says. “There’s just something about wood.”
He cut the spruce and fir logs in central, where he was born and raised, sawed them and stored them for two years to dry. And in September of 2000, Penney started building with the help of a friend, and continued to build through the record-breaking snow that year of up to 20 feet. It took four months to create the shell of the cabin and once the roof was on, Penney was on his own to finish the rest. “I moved in and started to build around me,” he says.
For a couple of years, Penney outfitted the interior of his new log creation and shopped around for the most suitable art and furniture to give the cabin the rustic, lived-in, comfortable feel he was looking for. The cabin was almost complete, except for a staircase to the loft, where an office space and master bedroom with balcony are located. Penney wanted something different: a set that fit the personality and style of the cabin. And at just the perfect time, a buddy was taking a spiral spruce set out of his home and was looking for a place to repurpose it. It fit the cabin to a T. The crafty stairs are now the rustic, natural centerpiece of the whole cabin.
It’s been eight years since Penney began visiting the cabin to relax in it, rather than build it. “It’s a cabin, but it’s my home,” he says. The log structure, with forest green accent trim, features an A-frame design with a 22-foot peaked ceiling and a cultured stone, wood-burning fireplace in the great room. Rather than blocking the view and cutting up the open space, Penney refrained from building walls throughout the main living space. He crafted a kitchen island out of pine to add more prep surface and topped it with a ceramic tile top, which carries into the backsplash.
And the island isn’t all he built within the log structure. His craftsmanship is everywhere. The end tables, coffee tables, entertainment unit, log beds, dressers and kitchen cabinetry were all created in his work shed, built to match the cabin. His Grandfather was also a builder, crafting four of his own boats and the furniture in his house. “It’s one of those hidden talents that you didn’t know you had but somewhere in the family line it gets passed down,” says Penney, who crafts Newfoundland-themed coat racks, magnets and stools as well as small pieces of furniture, all of which he sells at craft stores along the coast.
After a serious injury at the jobsite in 2004, shortly after completing his cabin, Penney was forced into early retirement. Not one for being unproductive, he began feeding his lifelong interest in carpentry. “It’s amazing when you can hand-make something and to see people look at it as something valuable,” says Penney, who has decided to name his business La Manche Village Crafts, after his home away from home and the village that inspires his work.
“Everything that’s here, I know my hands were on it,” says Penney. “The satisfaction is a great feeling. I built it for myself and what I get out of it is everything I wanted to get out if it.”
The projects never end though, says Penney, as he heads out to continue working on his guest cabin, situated along the river, with a view from the back deck of a waterfall framed by trees.
This story first appeared in the summer, 2012 issue of Home & Cabin.